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Night Court's Lacretta On What It Takes To Bring Gurgs To Life - Exclusive Interview

Like the original, the "Night Court" revival relies on its diverse ensemble cast to bring the laughs week after week. And while former "Big Bang Theory" star Melissa Rauch and 1980s "Night Court" alum John Larroquette may have been the initial draw for audiences, there wouldn't be a show without the rising stars that surround them, including the mononymous Lacretta, who plays the quirky, upbeat bailiff Donna "Gurgs" Gurganous.

While it may seem like Lacretta got lucky landing such a big role on a wildly popular reimagining of a classic sitcom, the actor-slash-comedienne has been honing her skills for decades both on and off Broadway, having starred in the musical comedy "Avenue Q" and the first national tour of "The Book of Mormon." Now, as Gurgs, Lacretta is finally receiving the star treatment she deserves.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, the breakout star of "Night Court" discussed where she draws inspiration from when it comes to Gurgs and what she has learned from small-screen veterans Rauch and Larroquette.

Gurgs 'brings balance' to the ensemble cast

On the original series, there were several bailiffs throughout its run, including Richard Moll as Bull, Selma Diamond as Selma, and Marsha Warfield as Roz. How much did you look to the past show to bring your bailiff character Gurgs to life? And how do you balance being respectful to the original while making her your own?

I watched "Night Court" growing up as a kid. It was in syndication at the time. I was always watching TV shows that were a little bit older than I was. I was a gifted child — I was in advanced reading in elementary school, so I always had a thirst for things that were a little bit older for me. I was in the second grade watching "Night Court," but it made sense to me. I didn't catch all the jokes because there were some naughty ones, but for the most part, I was like, "Oh, gosh, this is so nice." I remember Selma Diamond, and there was another bailiff [Florence Halop as Flo]. Unfortunately, we lost Selma, and we lost that other one. Then, Marsha Warfield stepped onto the scene. So for me, Gurgs is a beautiful blend of Richard Moll's quirkiness and Marsha Warfield's grounded reality.

I fit into the whole canon by being the bailiff, but as far as making her my own — because I was a precocious child — her timing is slightly off-kilter from the rest of them in a beautiful way that brings balance. She does a great job at standing on her own.

How do you think your character breaks stereotypes, and what does that mean to you?

She breaks stereotypes in so many different ways. Typically, the trope for the big black woman is she's "sassy," which is a problematic word that's for a completely different interview — the sassy sidekick. But for this, because it's an ensemble show, we always have our own features. We have our own times to shine, and we have our times to support each other. Plus, it's not that typical "Knock, knock, who's there?" kind of comedy; it's a little more cerebral. The majority of our writers went to Ivy League colleges, so it's really nice to have clever, smart comedy. That's how she's breaking stereotypes. She runs the gamut between physical humor and highbrow humor, and I love that about her.

She's quirky in a very endearing way. How much of your own personality comes out in her?

A lot of it. I'm definitely an imaginative person; I'm a playful person. I'm a Pisces, I'm a dreamer — my head is in the clouds — and I feel the same way about Gurgs. She just gets to respond more freely than I do as an adult. Sometimes, I have to filter what I say in an effort to make sure that everybody's comfortable. For Gurgs, she wants to make sure that everyone's comfortable, but she wants to speak her mind as well.

Lacretta and Larroquette often talk about old times

This is your first major television role. What have you learned from on-screen veterans Melissa Rauch and John Larroquette?

It's an infinite list of things. I love how they listen. I love how they are unapologetic. I've learned how to pace myself from them. I've learned how to relax. I've learned grace from them. It's been a beautiful experience working with the both of them.

What's it like working with John in particular? Has he regaled you with any memories from the original set that you can share?

So, so many. My favorite one ... I was trying to gain some backstory, so I did some research and brought in a picture for him. It was him and Marsha [Warfield], and she was embracing him, and it was a beautiful picture. It was in black and white, and he said, "That's from the episode where we both got trapped in the elevator and I found out that Roz was diabetic, so Dan helped her take her insulin shot." I was like, "That's amazing." I still have to look for that episode.

I also talked to him about an episode where Roz teaches him how to ballroom dance, and there was a little bit of flirtatiousness that happened. I was like, "What was that about? Did they ever explore that?" and he was like, "No, they went on to more lascivious characters as far as Dan was concerned." But he said that he had a lot of fun filming that episode with her.

Any funny or memorable moments from the revival involving either him or Melissa that stand out?

Some things are inappropriate. [laughs] But we've had our fair share of laughs. At the [Season 1] wrap party, they showed us an amazing gag reel of things that had happened. We're constantly laughing, which is awesome because everybody should laugh more during the day. It's not just because we're doing a comedy — it's because all five of us are such funny people, and we're always telling stories and talking about our day and all the zany and quirky things that happened to us. We bring all that energy on set.

One day, we were standing in the hallway set between the courtroom and Abby's chambers, and I look over and see John, like, "Yeah, he's there." All of a sudden, out of the blue, he scares me. I was like, "How did you do that? I knew you were there. You didn't jump around the corner. You were there, I saw you, you had your hands in your pocket, and then all of a sudden there was a jump scare."

He has what I call "sunshine eyes." When he smiles, his eyes are these arcs and his cheeks puff up, and he looks like a six-year-old. He looked like a giant six-year-old that was so proud of what he had done, that he scared me so bad. We don't prank each other on a regular basis, so I think that's why it scared me so bad ... I'm only 5'4", so he stands a foot taller than me. I'm slightly taller than Melissa, who comes up to his elbow, so we're all little elves and fairies running around this giant all day.

She sees her life as coming full circle

This revival was an out-of-the-gate hit, nabbing some of the biggest viewership numbers network TV has seen in years. I noticed on your Instagram page that you posted a recent picture of you at a baseball game where you are clearly excited to be sitting near Rob Lowe. What's it been like being thrust into stardom seemingly overnight?

There are a lot of pros right now. Overnight for me is 30 years. I've been performing and getting paid to perform since I was 14 years old, so I've gotten to work with some amazing people. Now, I'm getting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with even more amazing people. It's overwhelming and beautiful, and I'm so grateful. I like baseball, but normally I would not have sought out opening-day tickets for a Dodgers game. But to be there and to be that close to everything, I'd never experienced anything like it. That in itself was a blessing. Then I look over and happen to see doggone Rob Lowe within arm's length of me! My mind went through all the things that I've seen with him in it, and I was like, "Whoa." You see your worlds collide.

I went from growing up in Kansas City to now living in California — but I was actually born in California, so it was this amazing full-circle moment for me. I feel at home here. For so long, I lived and worked in New York, but that wasn't home. But being here in California, the way I sleep at night, it's insane. There are buckets of drool everywhere because I'm that relaxed and comfortable. I never, ever would've thought that this would be my life right now.

The "Night Court" revival airs Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and streams the next day on Peacock.

This interview has been edited for clarity.